5 Tips to Create a Psychologically Safe Work Environment and Improve Employee Engagement

Continuous Improvement Depends on Psychological Safety

Creating a culture of learning and continuous improvement is a cornerstone of employee engagement. But if employees aren´t allowed to fail, then they can never really learn.

In the Forbes article, 6 Ways to Create a Supportive Work Environment, the author quotes Amy Rees Anderson who says, “Mistakes are the pathway to great ideas and innovation. Mistakes are the stepping stones to moving outside the comfort zone to the growing zone where new discoveries are made and great lessons are learned.”

So to create a culture of continuous improvement, an organization must first build a psychologically safe work environment encouraging employees to take risks. In the last blog we discussed what a safe work environment looks like. It looks like anything – messy and loud to quiet and contemplative. But all psychologically safe environments allow employees to take risks. All psychologically safe environments stand out because:

  • Everybody gets a chance to talk and share her ideas
  • The groups are highly socially sensitive.

But you can´t teach that. Or can you?

Here are 5 tips to build a psychologically safe work environment to improve employee engagement through effective teamwork.

1. Keep track of who talks during meetings: Have a list of employees´names and put a check each time they talk. Make sure no meeting ends without everybody´s input.

2. Model listening: Repeat-rephrase what an employee says. Respond to comments. Don´t brush aside an employee if he looks upset about something. Engage and respond.

3. Model curiosity and the desire to learn: As team leader, ask questions. Listen. Learn. And make sure everybody knows that with every new venture there´s unknown territory, so projects require the expertise of everybody. A team is inter-dependent.

4. Give employees autonomy: You hired them. Now let them do their jobs. Stop doing the Steve Jobs tango and watch them soar.

5. Respect is a mindset: No idea is too crazy or far-fetched. Because from these wild imaginings come real concepts that can be implemented. Shooting for the stars and allowing employees voice how that can be done is the first step toward problem solving.

It is proven that psychologically safe work environments aren´t always on-task. They don´t necessarily follow linear paths. They are, however, in the long run, more effective. This is where real creation and problema solving happens. This is where employees take control and make a difference.

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